Wireless product certification

Wireless product certification | How to do it right and be globally competitive

Inspire consumer trust in innovation

Inspire consumer trust in innovation

Like people, wireless devices need credentials like a passport or a visa to cross borders. When a manufacturer or brand wants to export their products, they must comply with the conformity requirements set by the country they want to enter. Failure to do so will expose them to penalties, fines, and delays.

But compliance is not always a straightforward process: exporters must navigate a broad spectrum of regional and national regulatory nuances, and regulations are always evolving. If you are looking to introduce your wireless products to a global audience, here is what you need to know.

 

Why global certification is a must

Certifications are in place for several reasons: for cybersecurity and personal data protection and privacy, to manage the potential interference between wireless devices, and to keep human exposure to radio frequency within safe levels.

Businesses should keep the serious consequences of non-compliance in mind:

  • Non-compliant products may be halted at the border, impounded, or returned.
  • There may be a need to redesign or re-engineer your devices, leading to delays and loss of revenue.
  • If your product is already in the country and found to be non-compliant, you may face civil or criminal charges (including steep fines or the possibility of imprisonment), negative publicity, and your company or product potentially being banned from the country.

The complex landscape of regulatory compliance

As a first step, companies usually secure widely accepted approvals such as the European Union’s CE or the United States’s FCC certifications. But while these certificates are accepted in many countries outside of the US and the EU, you may still need to pass certain country-specific requirements, including those related to product testing, labeling, or shipment inspection.

 

Requirements vary across geographies

 

Countries in Africa, the Middle East, Australasia, and Asia (including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), tend to just require applicants to submit their European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) technical compliance files for review. But some countries that accept ETSI may still deviate from these standards, and may even ask for a sample of the product. Wireless products using cellular, Wi-Fi, and RFID also need to be assessed for their alignment with the frequencies permitted in each country.

 

 

Latin American and Caribbean countries typically prefer FCC documentation.

 

 

Countries in Asia and the Pacific generally have their own requirements or a variation of EU requirements.

 

 

Some countries do not accept either FCC or ETSI test reports and will instead ask you to send samples of your product so they can perform the test themselves. Japan, China, Taiwan, Brazil, and Mexico fall under this category, as do some other countries in Asia.

 

 

Regulations are constantly evolving

Another thing that complicates the certification process is the fact that regulations are always changing.

For example, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a sizable impact on the Commonwealth of Independent States region, so companies looking to market their products here must take care not to break any international sanctions.

The pandemic also left an impact, with many regulators now providing online services and accepting remote factory audits. Some regulators have had to shorten certificate validities and raise certification fees to recover from the increase in spending during the pandemic.

Other upcoming trends to keep an eye on include:

  • The swiftly-evolving regulations covering 5G and Wi-Fi 6E
  • cybersecurity, which many regulators are increasingly looking into
  • iPv6 requirements, which countries are exploring and for which Malaysia is the first to include as part of their certification
  • the phaseout of GSM (2G) technology, a bandwidth which has already been discontinued in several countries

Global market access: getting your wireless products internationally certified

How can companies get their products certified?

  • The process of determining the applicable regulations and managing your product’s compliance with these is called Global Market Access (GMA). It encompasses testing, certification, and other applicable approvals. You may facilitate this yourself, or partner with companies that specialize in GMA services.

 

Who needs to apply for certification?

  • The party responsible for having the products certified is either the manufacturer, who may or may not be the brand holder; or the local company representing the manufacturer, who may be the local brand holder, importer, or distributor. Keep in mind that the vast majority of certifications are needed at the point of import, not sale.

 

What is the first step?

  • Before you begin the process, you will need to know your product well. Ask yourself: What is it for? Who is the intended user? What are its technical and commercial specifications? What wireless technologies does it have, and what modules are used to enable it?

 

Are there other means to get globally certified?

  • Yes. For instance, the IECEE CB scheme is an international system with more than 50 member countries. Manufacturers and brands can use this scheme to potentially gain access to every member country without expensive, duplicate testing. But this may still not cover all your GMA requirements, so always check for additional certification schemes in the countries you plan to sell to.

Doing it yourself vs. partnering with compliance experts

Parties applying for certification typically partner with companies like TÜV SÜD that can facilitate the GMA testing and certification process. Doing it in-house is also possible and may come out cheaper, but it also has significant downsides.

 

Missing any of the voluminous requirements may cost you dearly down the road. Manufacturers often encounter delays when regulators ask for documentation that they did not know they needed.  ✅ Partnering with GMA experts can help you prepare everything in advance and speed up the process.
Many regulators also have a poor online presence, making it difficult to get in touch with them, determine the requirements, and submit your application.  ✅ Companies like TÜV SÜD have existing contacts with regulators and other key people, and can do the legwork of getting in touch.
Some countries require additional tests to be performed in the country, a local presence to submit the application, or a local company to hold the certificate on behalf of the manufacturer.  ✅ Setting this up on your own can be tedious, but companies like TÜV SÜD usually have existing agreements with local companies that can act as your representative.
 Also, you may encounter cultural and language barriers in these foreign countries. Some regulators take longer to reply to emails written in English; using the local language will make the correspondence more efficient.  ✅ TÜV SÜD’s extensive network of local contacts can help you communicate with regulators better.

 

4 ways to make certification efficient and economical

 

  1. Be aware of target countries’ compliance requirements at the product development stage
    The biggest mistake manufacturers make is carrying out all their testing before deciding where they want to sell, only to discover that their target markets require a different set of tests.
  2. Have clear, complete documentation to avoid delays
    Make sure all documents are aligned (correct model number and name, brand and manufacturer details, etc.). If applicable, make sure to prepare a copy of the user manual in the regulator’s local language.
  3. Be mindful of modular approvals
    Using components or radio modules that are already certified in your target markets could reduce costs and testing requirements, but some countries may still require additional tests and certifications for the end product in which these parts are installed.
  4. Always double-check country-specific requirements
    CE and FCC approvals have extensive geographical coverage, but even a country’s minor deviation from these standards will have major implications on your application.

 

🌏 Learn more about the nuances of global market access in this webinar (no sign-up required to view).


Work with trusted global market access experts

To make sure your wireless products get to market fast and in good form, consider partnering with companies that know the ins and outs of global market access.

TÜV SÜD is a one-stop shop for testing and certification. We are compliance experts with a global reach, ready to assist you every step of the way. 

We provide pre-compliance support, by carrying out in-depth research on your target countries’ requirements and helping you adjust your product and test plans accordingly. We will send your product samples for testing, liaise with local laboratories, submit your application, maintain contact with regulators to answer any follow-up questions and, after the certificates are issued, inform you about relevant regulatory changes and expiring certificates to make sure your sales continue without the risk of unintentionally marketing uncertified products.

Contact us today to learn more.

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